Class and State in the Gulf Cooperation Council States
Adam Hanieh is a Reader in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London. His research focuses on the political economy of class and state formation, with a geographical emphasis on the Middle East. He is the author of three books, most recently Money, Markets, and Monarchies: The Gulf Cooperation Council and Political Economy of the Contemporary Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2018), which has been awarded the 2019 International Political Economy Group (IPEG) Book Prize of the British International Studies Association and the 2019 Middle East Political Economy Project Book Prize by the Arab Studies Institute.
The six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar) constitute one of the most important zones of power within the contemporary Middle East. This chapter offers a critical account of the GCC’s political economy, presenting an alternative to standard approaches based on Rentier State Theory. The discussion focuses on: (1) the nature of capitalist class formation in the Gulf; (2) the significant internationalization of Gulf capital that has occurred over the last two decades; and (3) the structural role played by the presence of a large migrant labor-force, lacking access to citizenship or basic political rights. The chapter concludes with a reflection on what a critical political economy approach can offer to our understanding of the Gulf and what this might mean for the region’s broader place in the Middle East.
Keywords: Gulf Cooperation Council, Rentier State Theory, Oil, Migrant Labor, Capitalism in the Gulf